Nutrition needs during lactation are high, even higher than pregnancy! As you may have heard, breastfeeding is very important for both mothers and their infants. Since the infant's weight triples during the first year after birth, it is very important that they obtain enough nutrients from their mother's milk. When the mother does not regularly feed the baby the capacity of their breast milk may diminish.
Benefits of breast milk - Breast milk is very nutritious and infants do not accept cow milk readily right after birth as they may develop allergies and the antibodies present in the cow's milk may harm them. In some cases they may even develop allergies to cow milk, leading to diarrhoea, etc.
Breastfeeding is very important till 6 months after the birth of the baby but the mother can continue it till 1 year. It helps in bonding between the mother & baby and even can reduce the chances of postpartum depression. During lactation, a hormone called oxytocin is secreted by the uterus which gives the feeling of 'being loved' to the mother. In the end, the duration of breastfeeding is a mother's personal choice.
How different lactation needs are from pregnancy needs:
During lactation, a lactating mother's calorie requirements increase to 600-650 kilo-calories per day. There is a huge need of nutrients like iron, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Breastfeeding mothers should make sure that they get enough rest, and divide household chores. Hydration (drinking enough water) is very important during this time as women may experience low hemoglobin and lowered energy levels. Iron requirements increase to up to 60mg per day (based on recommendation by FOGSI). For anemia, women are generally prescribed iron supplements in the form of iron tablets which often taste bad, cause nausea, vomiting and are discontinued by women. For such cases, Violet Health has formulated MamaBix - special iron and folic acid biscuits for pregnant & lactating women. Lactating mothers should also have plenty of green vegetables like spinach, methi, fenugreek, dates, figs, legumes, pulses etc. so they don't feel weak or experience low energy levels.
(Read: Top 10 iron rich foods for pregnancy)
Lactating mothers with issues in latching or over-production also sometime face issues like sore nipples, breast pain and swollen breasts. Speak with your doctor who may suggest pain-relieving medications or massage ointments which could help. Also, consider pressing hot water bags and getting in touch with lactation consultants who can help in appropriate positioning and latching for infants.
For managing less supply of milk, mothers could try massaging to stimulate their production. For managing over-production and breast swelling, a breast pump could be used to relieve and store the milk for later.
Remember, during lactation both the mother and the infant's health depend on good nutrition!